Monthly Archives: September 2014

Los Olivos, California – Sun, Wine & Relaxation

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Whether you’re into wine, relaxing, or both, there’s a lot to enjoy in Los Olivos, California, located about 45 minutes outside of Santa Barbara.

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With a climate similar to that of Tuscany, it’s no surprise that this region is known for its production of wine and olives. Wineries and horse ranches dot the surrounding valley, while the charming town of Los Olivos is full of modern wine tasting shops, farm to table restaurants and shops.

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From the town’s main intersection there are really only three blocks of town to explore so you quickly get the feeling you can see it all, making it easy to downshift into the cozy town’s slow pace. I’m not into wine, which is the main focus of the town with its 25+ wine tasting rooms, but I enjoyed sitting at the cafe watching people and dogs and popping into the charming home and clothing boutiques.

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Along the road from Los Olivos to nearby Solvang are several homes and ranches with miniature horses decorating their front yards. You can pull over to the side of the road to see them grazing, and if you’re lucky, one may come up to you for a snuggle.

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Also nearby is the famous Ostrichland USA, where you have the unique opportunity to feed ostriches and emus.

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If you are staying in the area and looking for some night life, The Maverick is about the only option, but it is unexpectedly lively with pre- and post-wedding events from all the people attending weddings at the nearby wineries. You’ll fit in best if you wear a cowboy hat and boots, but don’t expect to hear much country music – it’s club / dancing music all night long. Be prepared to stand on the bar and stick a dollar bill to the ceiling!

Insider Tip: None of the wine tasting rooms or boutiques seem to have public restrooms, so they send you to port-a-potties down the street. Instead of braving the port-a-potties, stop in at the cafe or have a bite to eat at Sides restaurant, which both have lovely real restrooms!

A Walk Through Huntington Gardens – Pasadena, California

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Living in Southern California, I feel as though I have an endless list of places to visit nearby, or with a day or weekend trip away from my home in San Diego. I keep my travel wish list organized by continent, country, and region (does anyone else do this?). Despite countless trips to the LA area, The Huntington in Pasadena, CA had been on my wish list for so long and I finally had the opportunity to visit!

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It has a library with rare books and lovely museums, but the main draw is the 120 acres of botanical gardens. Walk with me first through the rose garden…and try not to smell each variety of rose like I did!

20140906-IMG_5304All of that rose sniffing had me a little woozy and in need of a rest. This spot will do nicely.

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The Japanese Garden has a bit of everything – moon bridge, tea house, koi pond, and even a bonsai courtyard! It seems to have been designed with inspiration and reflection in mind, with many nooks to sit and absorb the surroundings.

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This is the only zen rock garden I have seen outside of Japan. Walking through it took me right back to the famous Ryoan-ji in Kyoto. Especially during this epic drought we are experiencing in California at the moment, I have great appreciation for a garden that requires no water!

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In contrast to the Japanese Garden that invites reflection and intimacy, the Chinese Garden promotes community with its tea house overlooking the lake, and large, intricately decorated gazebos.

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There are so many other gardens to explore at The Huntington, including an Australian Garden, a Cactus Garden, and one of the largest Camellia gardens in North America. If you have been before, what was your favorite garden? I loved the Japanese garden the most, but felt I could have sat at the Chinese tea pavilion for hours!

Breathtaking Snoqualmie Falls – A Jaunt from Seattle

Just 30 minutes outside of Seattle are the impressive Snoqualmie Falls. You might recognize the waterfall and lodge from the opening credits of the TV show Twin Peaks! If you were a fan of the show, as I was, I challenge you to visit without hearing the theme song in your head. The view from the upper observation decks, close to the main parking lot, is the same view as the one in the TV show.

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The upper observation deck is easily accessible from the parking area, and most people only see the falls from this platform. If you are up for a bit of a hike, you can walk the 1.2 miles round trip to the lower observation deck, seeing many shades of green, moss-covered trees and giant fallen tree trunks on the way down. The entrance to the trail is not well marked, but on the way back to the parking lot, if you keep to the left past a playground area, you will find the trail.

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Or, you could skip the hike and drive down to the lower parking lot, and from there, take the short walk to the lower observation deck. This part of the walk is the prettiest anyway, with the wooden walkway passing directly alongside the river before the view opens up to the falls.

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This is the view from the lower observation deck – definitely worth the drive or hike!

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A little tip – if you are planning to walk the distance between the upper and lower observation decks, skip the main parking lot that gets very crowded and drive straight down to the lower parking lot, then walk and back from there. The lower parking lot was nearly empty when I visited, while the upper main lot was full to the brim, with people circling looking for spots. I wish I had known there was a parking lot at the lower observation deck! Now you know, and can make the most of your visit to Snoqualmie Falls.